Labour’s best local election result since 1995 and the Tories’ worst since 1996, yeah, we’ll take that

Labour leader Ed Miliband with Labour Group leader Sir Albert Bore

Ed Miliband in Birmingham yesterday with Birmingham Council Labour Group leader, Sir Albert Bore

That’s right, throughout Friday Labour saw it’s best performance in a local election since 1995 (all in proportion to how many Council elections were up for grabs as last year we gained more but far more were up for grabs). And similarly the Tories saw their worst local election result since 1996 and the Lib Dems now have dropped down below 3,000 councillors for the first time in the party’s existence.

This was a result that exceeded everyone’s expectations on all fronts. With most Tories attempting to spin the result to say we needed around 450 councillor gains to be seen as a success, we only smashed that with 823! When everyone expected Scottish Labour to lose Glasgow City Council we not only fought off a SNP challenge but took control of the council at the expense of the Lib Dems and Tories. When everyone said Labour would only win a slight majority in our very own Birmingham City Council, we smashed all expectations by gaining 20 councillors and winning a 34 seat majority. When it was expected Welsh Labour would fail in taking Cardiff City Council, we defied all predictions by gaining 33 councillors and winning a majority of 17! And we’re very proud of very nearly almost gaining control of the Greater London Assembly, falling short by 1 Assembly member.

This election wasn’t without its disappointments though. BULS’s very own Honourary life Member, Dennis Minnis, was unsuccessful in taking Edgbaston. And biggest of all, huge disappointment at Ken’s defeat. We are all glad Ken did defy most  (but not all, sadly) odds by not letting Boris have a shoe-in election by pushing the margin on the second round to a close 3%. Many Tories see Boris as the next leader and Prime Minister in waiting. “Wiff-waff” may well have edged it in London, don’t expect the country to do the same.

Of course, the results did see successes close to our hearts in BULS. Obviously there was turning Birmingham City Council red, but BULS saw former student of the University of Birmingham, Karen McCarthy, join former BULS Secretary, Brigid Jones, as a Councillor for Selly Oak. Quinton ward, where Grandee Nash played a large hand in, was also successful in electing Caroline Bradley.

All in all, while this was a brilliant result for Labour nationally we have to remember this has happened to opposition parties in the past. Hague, Howard and Kinnock all saw similar successes at mid-term local elections in their time in opposition. This was a much needed boost, not a prelude for the general election. Though it is safe to say, that the media, politicians and the wider public can no longer claim Miliband has no chance at 2015. There’s still a hell of a lot of work to be done, but we now know that we still do have a shot at 2015.

Max

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Local elections: our candidates

As we all know, the London mayoral election is quickly approaching. The two front-runners, and perhaps the candidates who are of most importance to us Labour lot, are well known: Ken Livingstone, the famous collector of lizards, and Boris Johnson, the living incarnation of a 15th century duke.

However, whilst these candidates have received plenty of media coverage, it remains that others have been pushed into the background. So what I want to – very briefly – highlight, are a couple of local council candidates in Birmingham.

BULS has, in the last year, been very active in the local area. Last year, Edgbaston council candidate Dennis Minnis lost by only 21 votes. This year, he is standing again, and BULS has been behind him 100%. A few weeks ago, a few of us went out on a Saturday to talk to local residents with Dennis. As we were walking down Charlotte Road (not too far from the Vale), Dennis told us that in the early 1990s, he won a large redevelopment fund for the street. Before, he said, there were partially deserted and dilapidated high rise buildings. These tower blocks are now gone, and the street looks entirely different (there’s even a nice playground there, where Catie Garner, our incoming Chair, got very distracted with the shiny swing sets). Dennis is incredibly passionate about his local community, and this is just one example of the astounding work that he has done in the past.

Another candidate who I would like to quickly mention is Elaine Williams, the council candidate for Harborne ward. Unlike Dennis, she has never been a councillor before, but is by no means any less passionate. I met Elaine last October, and have been out campaigning for her ever since. Recently, she wrote in Harbone Local News about the local elections (http://www.harbornenews.com/April2012/index.html). On page 15, she talks about the work she has done in the last few months for Harborne. One point she highlights concerns the sale of the Clock Tower on Harborne High Street, a former local community centre. In short, the grade II listed building was in need of repair, and the local Tories commissioned the erection of scaffolding on the building. Along with James McKay, the only Labour councillor in Harborne, Elaine found through an FOI request that the scaffolding cost around £12,000 a week. They then subsequently found an alternative quote of £2,000 a week, which was ignored by the Tories. Within no time, the debt quickly amounted to around £800,000. Recently, the centre was sold for £100,000, effectively meaning that £700,000 of local taxpayers’ money was lost. As James said in a radio interview, you’d be hard pressed to find a flat for £100,000 in the centre of Harborne, let alone a grade II listed building.

It’s also worth having a look at this – http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/harborne_clock_tower_sale_price?unfold=1 – to see more about the work she’s done regarding the Clock Tower (scandal). 

As one of the most talked about issues in Harborne, Elaine has been at the forefront of the debate. Like Dennis, she has been passionate about local issues, and would no doubt do a fantastic job as Harborne’s second Labour councillor.

This is my first blog, and as boring as it might be, I really wanted to highlight this issue. Whilst other political issues like the London mayoral election and the Birmingham Mayoral referendum are at the forefront of the news, dedicated individuals like Dennis and Elaine are hardly talked about. Of course, I’m not surprised, but I wanted this rant to provide some needed attention to our local candidates. It’s easy for these candidates to be lost in the political mix, but with the local elections dawning on Thursday 3rd May, I wanted to quickly show that councillors can make a difference, and that these candidates will make a difference if elected.

By Ed Gilbert, Vice-Chair-elect

The Bankers’ Budget

Nobody would expect a fair budget from George Osborne. The Chancellor was never going to give a budget that benefitted the many over the few, or one that put the realities of everyday life above right-wing economic dogma. Expectations suitably adjusted, we can perhaps take small comfort from the 50p tax band “only” being cut to 45p. Ed Miliband gave a sterling speech in response, and I raise a glass to the intern who wrote the jokes. Professional hacks will be casting their own analysis; what follows is my personal take on some of the details.
 
The Chancellor’s big spin on this budget is that it “rewards work”.  We already know that under-18s are to endure a cut in the minimum wage. In the UK it is possible to work a 40-hour week and still live in poverty. The way to make work pay is, surprisingly enough, to actually make work pay, by implementing a proper living wage. Today we heard no commitment on improving the pay of the low paid. It would be naive to ever expect one from a Tory Chancellor. Increasing the income tax threshold seems reasonable, but not when even the poorest are still hit by VAT, and duty on fuel, alcohol and tobacco. What Osborne gives with one hand, he takes several times over with the other.
 
Projections for economic growth and for a fall in unemployment are welcomed.I only hope they hold true. As far as I am aware the budget made no specific commitments relating to the latter. I fear that further cuts to the Department of Work and Pensions will only result in more inhumane box-ticking and the harassment of the vulnerable. The Government – as ever – has put all its faith in the hands of the wonderful private sector.
 
On the 50p rate, the detail most comprehensively leaked, news was always going to be disappointing. Having endured two years of the government chaffing on about deficit reduction, one could at least have assumed that they intended to maximise tax revenue. Basic maths will tell anyone that a 50p rate will raise more by its presence than its absence (“Laffer Curve” / wishful thinking / pseudoscience aside). Osborne himself stated that the rate raised around £1 billion. To me a lot, to him “next to nothing”. Cutting it will cost £100m. That’s a lot of disabled children who will have to go without.
 
The moral case for the 50p rate is even more clear cut – there can be no reason why someone “earning” in excess of £150,000 per year needs a penny more. Greed can be the only motive, and the one which leads to tax evasion and avoidance. It will be argued that such non-payment means that the tax rate might as well be cut. Just apply this same rational to other crimes such as burglary and murder – “You’re never going to catch every criminal, might as well legalise it!” – to see what a fallacy it is.
 
Tax evasion is “morally repugnant” according to Osborne. It is hard to shake off that dirty feeling that comes from agreeing with him – especially given those are often my own words. Tax evasion, and avoidance, are both morally reprehensible. They are as much a theft from the community as your typical off-licence robbery, in scale perhaps more so. The problem is that Osborne is the last person I would expect to do anything about it. I fear that despite pledges to the contrary, he will be all talk and no trousers. Every spending decision taken thus far by the government has convinced me that it is a government of the rich, by the rich, for the rich.
 
Miliband’s best line came when he challenged the government front bench to admit who among them personally benefit from the budget. Furthermore it is worth considering how many prominent Tory donors will also benefit. Such borderline conflict of interest makes a mockery of democracy – and will certainly not be reported in the Tory press. The headlines will trumpet crumbs from the rich men’s table, and ignore the widening inequality that will be a direct result of Osborne’s decisions.
 
Labour should commit to restoring the 50p band, and to actually getting serious on tax fraud, just as we should commit to renationalising the NHS. Anything less will be to continue to concede to the rightward drift of our national political discourse.
By Chris Nash

Ich bin ein Trot

In the past week the “progressive” mask of the Tory party has all but disintegrated. Once again, boggle-eyed theories of “the enemy within” have been aired. By now most people in the country will be aware of the morally repulsive government scheme that is workfare. Anyone with a heart and a social conscience will be opposing it.

According to Grayling and IDS though, we opponents are just a tiny “unrepresentative” bunch of extremist “trots”. Ah yes, “trots”, meaning trotskyists; because if you can’t counter an argument with logic, reason and facts, then why not descend into slurs, name-calling and ad homninum? I have used the term “trots” in the past to refer to left-wing opponents. It was wrong of me then, being both ignorant and a lazy and knee-jerk form of argument. All in all its use by the government signifies an intellectual unwillingness to engage in the issues.

Yet what can we expect from men who so clearly do not know the difference between right and wrong? Already they have lied through their teeth about the “voluntary” nature of workfare. Government documents are, even now, being fabricated or hidden from official websites. The DWP, as always, peddles its Orwellian propaganda. Everyone who has first hand experience of the Job Centre and these schemes knows that Grayling and IDS are open liars. When brave individuals like Cait Reilly have dared to stand up against workfare, they have been mercilessly slurred and slandered in the Tory press. Now there are threats of a heavy police presence at future workfare protests – presumably to intimidate the vulnerable into compliance.

I am against workfare because I believe in a fair days pay for a fair days work. I oppose businesses exploiting the free labour of the unemployed. I oppose the unemployed being punished for economic circumstances beyond their control. I oppose undermining the wages of paid employees by working for free. I oppose already rich individuals and shareholders profiting from forced and unpaid labour.

According to Grayling and IDS, all this makes me an “extremist” and a “trot”. This being so, all hail Comrade Trotsky!

By Chris Nash

Fourth by-election on the trot

That’s right, four by-election victories on the trot. Yes, all these were in Labour held seats, but it’s important how every single one has seen a significant swing towards Labour each time. The results were as follows:

Labour – 12,639 (54.42% up by 10.79%)

Conservative – 6,436 (27.71% down by 6.32%)

Liberal Democrats – 1,364 (5.87 down by 7.87%)

UKIP – 1,276 (5.49& up by 3.45%)

This has seen a 8.6% swing from Tory to Labour, when compared to the last general election which saw a mere 4.8% swing from Labour to Tory. Yes, the turnout was very low, but what do you expect at this time of year?

Either way, great result!

Max

The old fetish

Chris Riddell 11 December 2011

Friday was the day the old fetish returned. The day Cameron delved into nostalgia. And the day he set Britain at odds not only with the other 26 EU member states, but rationality itself.

What we saw on Friday was a Prime Minister with his hands tied by dogmatic backbench MPs. But not to worry, it seems Cameron had unveiled his all powerful ‘veto’. The only problem with this is that it’s not a true veto of any sorts. Negotiations will still be ongoing, the remaining 26 EU states will still formulate an agreement and Britain will not be present to have any say in the talks.

This is catastrophic failure for Cameron who has severed any attempts to help salvage the Euro which is not only in the EU’s interest but vital in Britain’s interests. In the words of a Facebook update by my own brother:

Tory lol. Blame the economic problems on the Euro crisis, then veto the plan to save it knowing full well that the the EU will cut you out and essentially get rid of any say you have in determining the future of Europe, and by extension, Britain

Some may call it Bulldog spirit, I’d like to call it naively dogmatic.

Max

#godisgove and #torybible

#godisgove and #torybible are to hashtags on twitter which have both appeared in recent days in the wake of Michael Gove’s decision to issue a King James edition of the bible to every state school in England. Now I’m not going to get into the whole inappropriateness of this act (If you know me well enough you’d remember I’m a massive atheist, but, I like to keep my role as BULS’s Vice-Chair totally separate from religion). But here according to LabourList are the top 10 best tweets featuring those hashtags.

Enjoy:

@4harrisons – And Cameron said “let there be growth” but lo! There was no growth

@mattedbrooke – And God said, “why have you eaten from the forbidden tree?” And Adam said, “we inherited this fruit from the labour government”

@ChrisBryantMP – Faith, hope and charity – have now been abolished as they were unproductive

@politic_animal – And on the seventh day he would have liked to have rested, but the government had opted out of the Working Time Directive

@lethandrel – And the lame were made to walk and the blind to see – well, according to the new assessments ….

@johnprescott – Blessed are the coalition for they shall inherit from and blame the last government

@cllr_robbins – Blessed are the freeschoolmakers: for they shall be called the children of Gove

@MatofKilburnia – And Lot’s wife was turned into a pillar of salt, which Gove did putteth in school dinners & lo Jamie Oliver was displeased

@GoodmotherMobbs – And the lepers were ‘cured’; as ATOS found them fit for work

@evilflea – And then He createth all of the beasts and the animals, excepteth the cat, which he did not make up.

Max